ICM / nmc fall 2008
spectrumsynth études • proj08

Music and soundscapes created as études through the use of the Spectrum Synth.

My project 8 theme came about when I stumbled upon a set of speeches about the brain and the human psyche. I blindly started the project by taking several samples in the spectrum synth and molded them to create 5 or 6 sounds out of each individual file. I then added additional effects to these samples and saved them again. Then I took a recording of a baby saying “I like music dad” and a cow mow sample and rendered them in the image synth. My last grouping of sounds came from the 16 samples of intellectual brain talk some of which I kept raw, and some that I added reverb, echo, and stretch effects on.

The piece takes on three movements. It starts with a barrage of sound samplings pilled over a back beat. This barrage of melodies takes on the depth of the brain as the first group of spoken lines float over the chaos painting a vocalization of the dreariness of human nature and society. It ends with a statement referring too inner thought as the background clears and your left with a whirlwind sound in the background. This is a band recording stretched and altered in the spectrum synth. There are also three samples applied over the original which are another band sample sped up in the spectrum synth. The contrast of these two lines provides a pulse between a long floating background sound scape to a fast driven floating background sound scape. The last three sampled voices are played over this self centered background explaining the relevance of societies effect on the brain. This section takes the listener into the mind state of a deranged soul, and captures the depth of his brains inner monologue.

The piece ends with a grouping of several spontaneous ambient sounds that suggest the craziness that one might experience within their own self consciousness during a period of intellectual silence. It is a eerie end to a dark look at human mind state, and paints a portrait of what it is like to be lost to society.


My intention for project 8 was to create a soundscape using pieces of two contrasting sounds in the spectrum synth analysis. Coincidentally, both sounds came from project 3. The sounds I used were a passing motorcycle and a schoolbell. One has a harsh and percussive attack, and the other has a smooth and mellow onset, but I used both in different ways by playing with the synth output. I made the motorcycle into a more percussive sound by changing the interpolation to a fast attack and changing the timbre over time through effects processing. I also used the bell tone as sort of a percussive bass sound by only spectrum analyzing the low pitch decay of the bell and once again adjusting interpolation. I then took different parts of the bell sound to make contrasting more high frequency timbres throughout the duration of the soundscape.


For this assignment I only used two sound sources – a sample of Tickle-Me-Elmo and a child saying, “I like music dad.” Both were found at freesound.org. I played with the samples in the spectrum synth room before I brought them any where else. For the most part, these sounds were brought to the effects room for some tweeking. I didn’t always import the whole sample, but sometimes focused on certain phrases.

For the first movement, I used sounds that resulted from the dice/random function of the spectrum synth. Both sound sources were used to create this sort of danceable texture, and were accented by recognizable source material.

For the second movement, I focused on smaller parts and zoomed in really close to hear them change over the course of a minute. There is a lot of overlapping, but it flows so well you can’t tell you’re listening to more than one track. One of the tracks I paired with a reversed and slightly pulsed version of itself for a really nice texture.

The third movement was also an experiment in texture, but I also tried to tie all the samples together in a meshing rhythm. I also wanted to combine vocal tracks that were less rhythmic with sounds of non-vocal ambience that were made more rhythmic.


The main melody of this piece was derived from an audio file I originally created for Project 3 using the Sequencer. Using the Spectrum Synth to auto-build the sequence, I was able to randomize and rearrange the grains to create a whole new, more complex melody line. I used the soft eraser brush to thin out some areas of the spectrum to create more dynamics and interest to the straightforward and somewhat stale sound of the original file. I created several versions of this melody sequence, each bringing out different harmonics using the brushes and formant filters. I also found the interpolation modes very useful in varying things up. I used the constant and attack modes to achieve more of a rhythmic sound.

I also used another sound source from the Project 3 “found sounds” as the basis for my rhythm and bg sounds. After editing in the Spectrum Synth, I brought the file into the effects room and used the shuffler and reverb to craft a rhythmic, percussive loop with a fast release and quick attack time.

For the snare and kick sounds, I used the audio samples I had created for Project 2. Instead of using them as they were, however, I used the Image Synth to analyze and edit each spectrum for a more “electronic” sound.

Several other sounds used in the piece were derived from these files using the Spectrum Synth.



I created an ethereal texture by focusing in on a single syllable: “a” from “today” and it’s microtonal inflection. It was repeated and then through an image filter and then reverb. I used the spectrum synth to slow down the syllable, and the text heard at 0:35. I stretched the “a” again to show where the introduction came from.

I did a similar technique with “Matthew.”

To represent the “calling of the disciples,” the repeating “a” returns and then harmonized a major third higher using the effects room. Then, the spectrum synth plays “suffer” slowed down and detuned, panned hard left and hard right.

Stretched out and detuned versions of “help those who suffer” are played, and a prominent minor seventh is heard. That is also from the natural inflection of the voice stretched out.

At 1:30, two versions of “Jesus’ intent…” are played simultaneously hard left/right. Each version emphasizes certain words, but the timings are exactly the same. Then, a randomized version of the text is repeated as a texture.

The minor7th call returns, as does “suffer.”

Then the spectrum synth plays a harmonically focused version of the final line of text at a lightly slower pace. It is heard with the unaltered version, so clarity is important. Then only the spectrum version is heard (but the listener can still make out the text).

This is quite possibly the saddest, most depressing music I have ever written.

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